[JURIST] Six Oklahoma voters, along with women's healthcare providers and religious groups, filed a lawsuit [text, PDF] Thursday against an Oklahoma ballot initiative [text, PDF] that would amend the state constitution to redefine "personhood." The amendment would confer "personhood" rights to embryos at the "beginning of biological development." If the initiative passes, it would effectively outlaw all abortions, many forms of birth control, and many essential treatments for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. The lawsuit claims that the amendment would violate the Fourteenth Amendment and, as such, should not be allowed to be put on the ballot. The complaint states:
The amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution proposed by [the initiative] is intended to, and will, ban abortion in direct violation of both the federal Constitution and this Court's clear declaration the Oklahoma's initiative process may not be invoked for that purpose. Further, it would infringe on a woman's federal constitutional right to decide whether and when to conceive by banning most forms of contraception and effectively prohibiting medical interventions, like in vitro fertilization, that assist with conception.Personhood USA [advocacy website] released a statement condemning the lawsuit [press release].
The Virginia House of Delegates passed [JURIST report] a similar "personhood" bill in February. There has been significant controversy regarding personhood initiatives and the possible ramifications [JURIST commentaries] that come along with them. A similar lawsuit challenging the Mississippi personhood ballot initiate was dismissed [JURIST report] last fall. That initiative was eventually rejected [JURIST report]. In 2007, the Colorado Supreme Court [official website] allowed [JURIST report] another "personhood" ballot initiative with similar language.